Heaslip returns in only change for Wales match

Heaslip returns in only change for Wales match

Ireland's Jamie Heaslip during squad training today at Carton House.

Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

Jamie Heaslip starts at number eight in the only change Joe Schmidt has made to his starting XV for Saturday’s crucial RBS Six nations game against Wales in Cardiff.

Heaslip missed Ireland’s victory over England due to a back injury sustained in Ireland’s previous game against France.

It was initially feared the 31-year-old would miss the rest of the tournament following a knee to the back from Papiss Pape, but he will start on Saturday in place of Jordi Murphy.

Murphy drops to the bench, with Munster’s Tommy O’Donnell out of the matchday squad as a result.

Ireland go into Saturday afternoon’s match as the only unbeaten side left in the tournament, but can expect a tough reception from Wales.

Warren Gatland’s side have only lost once, to England in their opening game, and know victory in the Millennium Stadium would put them in the mix for a Championship win.

Captain Paul O'Connell will get his hundredth Ireland cap against Wales on Saturday, 13 years after facing the same opposition to earn his first.

Wales play Ireland in the Millennium Stadium, March 14, kick-off 2.30

Ireland team to play Wales: R Kearney, T Bowe, J Payne, R Henshaw, S Zebo, J Sexton, C Murray, J Murphy, S O'Brien, P O'Mahony, P O'Connell, D Toner, M Ross, R Best, J McGrath.

Replacements: S Cronin, C Healy, M Moore, I Henderson, J Murphy, E Reddan, I Madigan, F Jones.

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